Once a person decides that they want to write a novel, the number one rule they follow, is writing what they know J.K. Rowling grew up telling stories she had made up with her friends. At school, during lunch, her friends and she would take turns adding different parts to the same story. When she came up with the idea for Harry Potter, she had already had many years of practice at making up stories about magic. Ian Fleming went to royal military school, where he was placed on His Majesty's List for the King's Royal Rifle Corps. Later, he served in World War II where he worked in naval intelligence. Not long after that, James Bond was born. He simply wrote what he knew.
John Grisham was a lawyer. His books are about lawyers. Every book he writes is about lawyers, because that is what he knows. The only thing different in all of his books are the plots. The characters are the same, the settings are the same, and they are all structured the same. Whoever buys one of his books, already knows what to expect. Is this why he is so popular? Have the people of the world become so routine in their lives that they would rather pick out a book that they already know what the setting is going to be about, instead of something they are not sure about?
Nearly all of his novels are similar to each other. For example, The Firm, The Testament, and The Partner all have to do with a lawyer in trouble from power, money, and greed and they all have some sort of courtroom antics. In the Firm, the main character becomes wrapped up in a law firm that kills their partners who don not play by their rules. When they find out that he has talked to the FBI, they threaten him with pictures. "Mitch leaned on the limo and nervously opened the envelope. There were four photographs, black and white, eight by ten, very clear. On the beach. The girl." (The Firm, 1990). In the book, The Testament, a washed up lawyer gets a chance to work on the legal proceedings on a billionaires will. This gives him an opportunity to change his ways and become a better person. That is the story concisely, other than a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo. "Somehow she'd known he wasn't a drunk anymore, that his addictions were gone, that the demons who'd controlled his life had been forced locked away. She had seen something good in him." (The Testament, 1999). In The Partner, a lawyer steals 90 million dollars in dirty money and is caught four years later. He then needs help from another lawyer to fight his case, including a murder trial. It has many twists, and many surprises, but it is still just a story about trials and murder. "They found him after four years of tedious but diligent searching, four years of dead ends and lost trails and false tips, four years of pouring good money down the drain, good money chasing bad, it seemed." (The Partner, 1997).
Another similarity with most of his novels is in their settings. All three of the above books, not to mention a few others, take place somewhere in Mississippi, have major scenes played out in courtrooms, and The Partner and The Testament both have parts of the story taking place in Brazil. "I'm calling from Brazil' She said, according to script. 'They've captured Patrick'." (The Partner, 1997) Nothing ever seems to change in the places these stories take place, and most of the descriptions remain the same. Mr. Grisham might have got this idea from Stephen King or Pierce Anthony, who were both masters at creating different stories in the same area. This kind of formula for using the same setting for all of the books worked wonders for both of those authors, and is now working well for Mr. Grisham. This could be because once a person reads a book, and then reads another one by the same author, they like having the feeling of having been there before. It is possible he used this same formula for his books because he knew that it was what readers wanted. It had nothing to do with how different the story was, as long as different names and different situations.
Characters are another repetitive part of his books. The only thing that seems to change about his characters is the names. Most of them are good people in bad situations. In The Firm, the main Character was a hard working lawyer in Mississippi. He had a loving wife, he won most of his cases, had a decent house and a good car. "The senior partner studied the resume for the hundredth time and again found nothing he disliked about Mitchell Y. McDeere, at least no on paper. He had the brains, the ambitions, the good looks." (The Firm, 1990) However, when the firm contacted him, they offered him more money than he could have dreamed of, put him in a luxury apartment and bought him brand new cars. Once he was sucked into the firm, bad things began to happen, and he did not want to be a part of it. Unfortunately, he was in a catch22, because he did not want to be killed, and he did not want his wife to be hurt either. The main character of The Partner was a bit different in his personality at first, but it ended up the same way. "They found him living a comfortable life but certainly not one of luxury. The house was modest and could have been owned by any local merchant. The car was a 1983 Volkswagen Beetle, manufactured in Sao Paulo with a million others." (The Partner, 1997) He was a good man who was trying to prove his innocence and wanted to change his life around. In The Testament, the main character was a lawyer who had been dealt many bad cards throughout his life, and looked at his new assignment as a way of changing himself around. Throughout the book, instead of battling big law firms and other lawyers, he was battling himself. He was trying to quit drinking and put all of his addictions to the side. Basically, all three main characters of the three books had the same thoughts and feelings, and none of them really had different traits to make them unique. Once again, the reader felt like they already new the character, even though it was a different one. This could be another part of the formula for getting the same readers back time after time.
Another part of his formula could be common sense. John Grisham is a smart man, and knows how people think. He received a B.S. In accounting in 1977, and then studied tax law at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi. Later, he changed his attention to criminal law, and in 1981, he earned his law degree and opened a law practice in Southaven. Because of this, he learned a lot about courtroom procedures, what was interesting and what was not, and he saw lawyers and judges doing great jobs along with making mistakes. He also got to know how people thought and felt, because many emotions poured out in the courtrooms during trials. Putting all of this together, he might have come up with a foolproof way of selling books. All he had to do was write one good story, have it get some attention, and then change the plot a little for another story. Once readers became familiar with his style, they would be hooked, and continue to buy all of his books, no matter what the plot was. As…